Bringing forth the intensity of her French-language movies but still maintaining aspects of conventional English movies, Director Lea Pool’s maiden English language venture represents a sound, if somewhat cloyingly romantic, over-earnest film. While the film could be criticized for being overwrought with growth, discovery, adolescent love and passion in the confines of a girls’ residential school, its overall impact is bolstered by commendable lead performance from Piper Perabo, which, alongside the film’s erotic moments, should help win new audiences. Adapted by Canadian screenwriter Judith Thompson from Susan Swan’s novel “The Wives of Bath,” the movie is Lea Pool’s first experience working from a script she didn’t write herself. While most of the successful lesbian movies of previous years, including “Go Fish,” “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” and “But I’m a Cheerleader,” taking a light-hearted approach, Lost and Delirious marks a return to more sober Sapphic drama of the years gone by.
Lost and Delirious, released in 2001, stars two young actresses in lead roles – Piper Perabo (as Pauline Oster) and Jessica Pare (as Victoria Moller). The two girls are roommates in a modern and liberal residential school. The film begins with Mischa Barton (as Mary Bradford) joining the school. She was to become the third member of the hostel room already shared by Pauline and Victoria. Mary (nickname ‘Mouse’) confronts a shock of sorts early next morning, when she discovers that her roommates are not just friends, but a couple. To her credit, Mary displays tact and maturity in handling this delicate situation. By not showing any discomfort while interacting with her room-mates, Mary acquires their confidence and friendship. While Mary was disconcerted at first, she soon gets used to the groans, whispers and cries of pleasure emanating from the bed at the other side of the room. The director presents the feelings of love between the two teenage girls in a realistic manner. As can be expected from adolescents, they display a lot of passion and affection for one another. This harmonious existence, although surreptitious, comes to an abrupt end, when Victoria’s younger sister barges into their room, when they are both sharing the same bed and lying naked underneath the sheets. The hard-kept secret soon spreads like fire across the campus and the couple attracts strange looks and hurtful comments wherever they go.
Victoria, who comes from a religious and conservative family, is scared of the consequences when news of her homosexuality reaches her father. She’s fine with being perceived a rebel, but being outcast from the securities provided by mainstream society isn’t something she would accept. So she hastily breaks-up with Paulie and finds a boyfriend in order to convince everyone that she’s straight. Paulie, on the other hand, is totally flummoxed by this change and this drives her toward the deep end. In behavior that is both symbolic and practical, she is shown fencing until she’s exhausted, and devoting her energies to the predatory spirit of her pet raptor. Even during classes, she expresses her anguish and disappointment, though passionate recitals of Shakespearean sonnets, apparently addressed to her classmate Victoria. It now becomes a little predictable where the plot is headed. The director’s sensitive handling of her young characters more than compensates for the familiar material and the occasional slipups, like the gnomic pronouncements of the school’s Native American gardener Joe. When Victoria sets out to prove to her school that she is a regular heterosexual girl, she accomplishes this through two things; first a fast-track romance with a school-mate called Jake along with abrupt severing of intimate contact with Pauline. The latter devastates Pauline completely. Pauline, who comes from a dysfunctional family background and had not been loved by anyone else before, is completely shattered by this rude and sudden indifference shown by Victoria. With every rebuke from Victoria, Pauline obsession only gets stronger. In a moment of utter desperation, she even asks Mary to cut off her (Pauline’s) hair, so that she will look like a boy and may hence win back Victoria. Pauline also displays volatile behavioral problems with her peers and her teachers, causing them much concern. The film shows the steady decline in Pauline’s state of mind in the context of her pet raptor’s domestication. With movie ends on a tragic note, with Pauline’s irrepressible obsession for Victoria, taking the former to abyss.